Gitamahatmya! Paratexts in Miniature Bhagavad Gitas with Special Reference to Pictures and Gender
Jon Skarpeid [+]
University of Stavanger
This chapter studies paratexts—such as epigraphs, prefaces, and illustrations—in four miniature Bhagavad Gitas. The analysis focuses particularly on format, illustrations, and gender. In addition to Gérard Genette’s concept of paratexts, this investigation of miniature Bhagavad Gitas draws upon Roland Barthes’ “Rhetoric of the Image” and Ervin Goffman’s Gender Advertisements. Comparisons show that some publishers have prioritized readability while others have produced smaller amuletic versions that are more difficult to read. The physical presence of the holy Gita is considered valuable in any case, and even the tiny editions are readable. With one exception, the paratexts reveal a male perspective. However, the gender ideology is presented in a rather indirect way. In one publication, a gender and class hierarchy is reflected in some illustrations. Two other publications have added mantras and ritual prescriptions that are hardly meant for women. One publisher has only included portions of the Bhagavad Gita, and stanzas where females are described as inferior to males as well as stanzas that explicitly address the four classes are omitted.